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Cryptococcus gattii is a fungus closely related to C. neoformans that infects the pulmonary and central nervous systems of animals and humans through inhalation of the organism. Symptoms vary depending on the organs affected, but may include prolonged cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, night sweats, and loss of appetite. Asymptomatic infections can also occur.

Until recently, C. gattii was only found in certain subtropical and tropical environments. In 1999, it emerged on Vancouver Island, British Columbia and since then has been detected in other areas of the Pacific Northwest by both environmental sampling and reporting of human cases. The exact geographic distribution of the fungus is not known, and may be expanding.

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Purpose of surveillance:

  • To detect cases of rare and emerging diseases
  • To understand the epidemiology of rare and emerging diseases

Local epidemiology:

Two cases of C. gatti were reported in 2015, one of which died. This case was immunocompromised and likely exposed in King County. The second case survived, but was lost to follow up.

Four previous cases of C. gattii have been reported in King County, three of which occurred in immunocompromised adults.
C. gattii was first detected in Washington state in 2005 in three cats that lived near the Canadian border.

The first human case in Washington state was identified in 2006. Since 2006, one or two human cases have been reported in the state each year. Since the time between exposure and illness onset can be long, determining where the patient was exposed may be difficult.